Black and white contrast create a classy and cosmopolitan look
Fresh, modern and fun, a revamped heritage home is the perfect place for one Montreal family.
Like the rest of the living room, the fireplace is striking in its lack of embellishment. “I wanted the whole space to be sleek,” says designer Sylvie Masse.
Sleek and modern as it may look, the kitchen is hard-working. Ample surface space makes prepping and cooking a cinch, and corralling clutter is easy thanks to the extra storage from the overhead and under-counter cabinetry. A TV integrated into the glass backsplash offers entertainment for cooks or those eating at the island. Visual interest is added through simple details like the pottery that appears to float on the ethereal glass shelving in front of the window in lieu of a blind.
A catch-all for cookbooks and culinary miscellany, the built-in oak unit along the kitchen’s back wall offers lots of extra storage and adds warm texture to the otherwise stark and minimalistic room.
High contrast black and white looks classy and cosmopolitan in the living room. Sylvie eschewed drapery for a barely-there roller shade to let the industrial-style window shine.
“With its bold black runner, the original white-painted staircase looks very old New York City,” says Sylvie.
Modern classics reign in the master bedroom, from the Eames rocker to the plush low-profile bed frame.
The clean-lined everything-in-its-place aesthetic took careful planning. By setting the wardrobe system within the wall and adding a lacquered MDF strip along the bottom, the contractor made the individual units appear built-in for a more refined look.
Tour this lovely cottage on Lake Simcoe!
A designer lends her expertise to help a couple resolve a colourful debate over the scheme for their family cottage.
"He wanted dark tones and a woodsy Aspen vibe. I wanted everything white with clean lines." The “he” referred to is the husband, the “I” speaking is the wife, and in terms of their decor preferences for this new-build 4,900-square-foot cottage overlooking Lake Simcoe in Innisfil, Ont., they were clearly at odds. But the Toronto-based couple, who has a seven-year-old daughter, a five-year-old son and a Samoyed puppy, did agree on one thing: The design had to be practical. And after many reassurances on the wife’s part that her vision could be inviting and relaxing, she says, “My husband eventually gave me free rein. I wanted a gorgeous unfussy space that was easy to maintain.”
To get the look, she turned to Lidia van Zyl, a designer based in Barrie, Ont., who’s well known for decorating waterfront properties in the area. “When I was hired in 2014, the cottage was in its planning stage,” says Lidia. “This allowed us to pore over the plans and confirm almost every detail before the walls went up.” The walls themselves played a crucial role in setting the tone for the space. “Honouring the husband’s preference for a traditional look, I incorporated shiplap into the mix,” says Lidia. The wooden boards, which were most often used in the construction of homes, were applied horizontally in the kitchen, powder room, foyer and master bedroom. “Shiplap, even when painted white, provides a rustic contrast to drywall and has an informal feel that really adds to the casual cottage vibe,” says the designer.
While the scheme may be all white, it’s anything but stark. “The key to decorating with white is to use different shades of it,” says Lidia. “If you look closely, you’ll see the walls are a crisp white, while the beams are coated with a warmer shade.” Wide-plank pale hickory flooring completes the airy backdrop, which Lidia chose to punctuate with bold hits of black. “I love contrast, so I added black accessories to almost every room,” she says. Lidia extended this theme to the furniture as well and, with the kids and puppy in mind, paid specific attention to practicality. “The grey sofas in the living room are covered with indoor-outdoor fabric, so they’re stain resistant and easy to clean,” she says. “And some of the pieces, such as the living room coffee table and foyer console, are crafted from steel, so they’re pretty much damage-proof.” She also introduced a few well-placed antiques throughout the cottage to create interesting tension between old and new.
The 18-month process of building and decorating netted a year-round family retreat that Lidia describes as “refined but rustic.” And even though the wife had total control, she did make an effort to include her husband – sort of. She says: “He really wanted dark floors, but even he conceded the light ones looked better. So I let him think he helped with that decision in a roundabout way. Now we’re all happy!”
Accessories like the rope-hung mirrors and the lantern-style pendant lights make this practical space feel decorated. “I don’t like to take risks when decorating,” says one of the homeowners, “but I did want to mix things up in the kitchen so it didn’t read as plain.”
Designer Lidia van Zyl played the natural tones of wood and stone against sleek black accents to create character in the living room. The tall armoire holds things like games, books and blankets, while the bare floor, a practical option, is easy to clean. A trio of metal sculptures above the reclaimed wood mantel is a departure from the expected mirror or artwork.
In the foyer, the staircase’s natural wood handrail and treads were a purposeful choice. “If we had painted them black, it would have drawn the eye up the stairs as opposed to straight through the cottage to the lake,” says Lidia.
A mix of neutral tones creates subtle depth in the dining area. “The table and chairs appear white at first glance, but they’re actually a soft shade of grey,” says Lidia. the chandelier, painted white to downplay its ornate shape, illuminates everything from meals to crafts.
“This cottage always makes me smile,” says one of the homeowners. “It’s an amazing feeling to open the front door to beautiful surroundings.” the stone skirting – a concession to the aspen look the husband wanted – ties in nicely with the herringbone brick walkway.
The artful arrangement of dark-hued antiques in an all-white area of the living room makes a graphic statement. the antlers are a family heirloom.
“I love a white kitchen because I don’t like distractions when I’m cooking,” says one of the homeowners, “and I can also see what needs to be cleaned.” low-maintenance Caesarstone countertops and a glossy tiled backsplash on the range wall make cleanup even easier. the massive island is outfitted with cupboards that hold cottage necessities, such as candles, batteries and a tool kit.
While the silhouette of the chandelier in the master bedroom is traditional, its wooden beads give it an earthy appeal that suits a cottage. the wicker basket, sisal rug and rustic artwork (it’s made of wood and says “I Love Us”) echo that earthiness, which is tempered by the black furniture.
Hooks and baskets are enough to keep the mud room in order since the basement has ample storage. The built-in bench always comes in handy.
Like the rest of the cottage, the powder room is energized with hits of black. “I love the graphic mosaic-look floor here,” says Lidia. “It’s actually 24-by-24-inch tiles, and they have just the right amount of pattern for a small space.” Vintage racquets used as informal artwork perfectly fit the laid- back vibe of this family retreat.
These asiago puffs are simple to make and taste delicious.
A delicious appetizer with only four ingredients means less time in the kitchen!
1 Roll the puff pastry out on a lightly floured surface to form an 8" square about 1/4" thick. Trim to straighten the edges. Cut the pastry into sixteen 2" squares and place on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Cover with waxed paper and refrigerate while the filling is prepared.
2 Add the sausage meat to a large bowl. Add 23 of the Asiago and all of the diced artichokes and mix by hand to combine. Shape into 16 walnut-sized balls and flatten each slightly. Place the remainder of the Asiago on a plate and roll each meatball in the cheese to coat. Place one meatball on top of each piece of pastry.
3 Bring the four corners of each pastry square together in the centre over the meatball to form a parcel with the edges almost touching. Press down to seal. Refrigerate the parcels for 20 minutes to firm.
4 Heat the oven to 400°F. Bake the puffs until the sausage is cooked through and the pastry is golden and puffed, about 25 minutes; serve warm.
Prep & cook time: 1 hour
If a full-blown kitchen renovation isn’t in the budget, try these more manageable ideas to breathe new life into your kitchen.
Refacing cabinet doors might seem like an economical alternative to fully replacing cabinetry, but buyer beware – especially with older kitchens. “Often you have to replace the hinges as well, which can weaken the cabinet structure over time and lead to sagging,” says Robin. Instead, consider having your existing doors spray-painted. “It’s way better than painting with a brush, which can cause blobs and drips in the grooves of the door profile, and they’ll look like new.”
It’s amazing how new door hardware will transform a cabinet. If you are having the doors sprayed anyway, the pros will fill in the old hardware holes, allowing you to choose any style you like as a replacement.
Instead of replacing an ugly kitchen countertop (which has its own set of drawbacks if you are retaining the base, especially if the old countertop is glued on), you can hire specialists who will add a quarter-inch veneer of genuine granite right on top of the old counter, for the look and almost the same durability as solid granite.
Beef up and modernize accent lighting. Pendants or other decorative fixtures add instant elegance.
Ceiling lighting can have a huge effect on the look and feel of your kitchen. Robin loathes halogen pot lighting, which has become almost the norm in many new kitchens and renovations. “Halogen was never really meant for ambient lighting, and it can cause glare and fatigue. They’ve come a long way with LED bulbs nowadays; they cost more initially but they last for years, are very energy-efficient, and are cool to the touch.” Old-fashioned recessed can lighting, especially the kind with black liners, can be retrofitted with updated energy-efficient versions with little or no repairs to the ceiling.
On the subject of lighting, many older kitchens simply don’t have enough, which can be very fatiguing. If you don’t want to hire an electrician to install more built-in lighting, there are lower-cost options such as “rope” lighting, which can be added under overhead cabinets, or even plug-in strip lighting, which you can put in yourself.
Even if you don’t do anything else to update, it’s amazing what a new coat of white paint on the ceiling will do to brighten things up. “Ceilings get dingy over time with smoke, dust, and dirt almost without you noticing it,” says Robin.
If you don’t have an existing kitchen backsplash, this is a great opportunity to add character and elegance for just a few dollars. Because backsplashes don’t require a large number of tiles, you can splurge on fancy ones, add a mix of high-end and plain ones, or create a focal point with mosaics, mirror tiles or other decorative options. Dated ceramic tile can be spray-painted in the same way as cabinets. “I had my bathroom tiles spray-painted, and they still look new 12 years later,” Robin says.
Click flooring can be installed right on top of ugly old floors; providing your existing floor is level, you can also install cork, laminate tile or linoleum. With care, these are all options you can do yourself.
Update, clean and declutter accessories; many of us tend to accumulate china figurines on the windowsill and cute magnets on the fridge, and just stop noticing them after a while. Replace with something new and fresh: pretty vases or bowls, collections of vintage bottles, or simply a spotless, uncluttered expanse of windows.